When it comes to our food, we increasingly want locally produced food, that comes from sustainable sources and has a guarantee of the quality and origin of the product. The consumer wants to know what they are eating, where the product comes from and they also want to be involved directly in the chain of production. Direct sales between small producers and consumers are increasing and Consumer Associations (groups of people that club together to buy fresh produce) are a reality. Given this backdrop, the concept of food provenance, better known as Food Sovereignty, is growing, creating tension between militant groups and skeptical groups.
Food sovereignty is defined as the right that people have to organise and provide for themselves in a sustainable and ecological way, prioritizing local economies. It locates producers, distributors and consumers at the heart of food systems and food politics, above the demands of markets and the industry in general.
In Gipuzkoa, the government aims to favour agricultural policies that give flexibility to current legislation, which currently favors large producers, and the industry and generally causes difficulties to small farmers. The director of Agriculture and Rural development, Mr. Koldo Lizarralde, advocates a cooperation between the Basque Government and the three Provincial Councils to achieve a new legal framework for the small farmer with a global approach that involves production, elaboration and sales. That is why it also requires a definition of what constitutes a small producer, and who it is applicable to. For example, specialists from the Provincial Councils went to Iparralde to see “in situ”, what French legislators do about it, as France has long permitted legal exemption for artisanal producers. Spain did not contemplate exemptions and that is why it has damaged artisanal production in Euskadi, causing a huge loss of potential among small producers. It is not easy working in a diversified market with no specific laws that cover your economic output level.
Food sovereignty focuses on local and national markets, empowers farmers and family agriculture, small scale fishing, traditional pasturing and it locates food production, distribution and consumption at the base of sustainable environment, and social and economic society. It also promotes transparent trade that guarantees decent incomes and the rights of consumers to control their own feeding and nutrition. An important statistic is that in the Basque Country, 7% of the products consumed are local, and the rest come from outside the Basque Country.
Mr. Lizarralde considers that it is vital to promote a more flexible legislation for small farmers, and work on the current ways and means of selling. The Consumer Association concept, where the client is committed to a weekly or a monthly basket of fresh produce, is a formula that is expanding among the population. However these traditional channels to market are not sufficient for the sales necessary to guarantee artisanal production. New channels of commercialisation are needed to be found. It is as important to know which product should be produced as it is to know how to sell it, who to sell it to, and how to reach out to those consumers.